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Spring/Summer 1997, Volume 14.2


Doug Martin

Doug Martin (M.F.A., Bowling Green State U) is a Ph.D. candidate at Oklahoma State University and a poetry editor for Cimarron Review. He was the Theodore Morrison Scholar in poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 1993, and his work has appeared in Hawai'i Review, Georgetown Review, REAL, B City, Arts Indiana, James White Review, and others.


The Lashing: A Valediction

Just below the branchscape, at dusk we lashed out
at weeds almost silly in their boredom, fluent like
the scarves of God, every last one
in the hint of winter a flabellum of dull color

made easy by the wood's dying.
The still-born sun farthest east,
and only the sound of our lashing…
Maybe the sifting wind thought hard

for the redolence that comes to it, to us,
each summer, and is now leaving.
Maybe the incurable unfurling of our one soul's sprout
busying itself was the late runoff toward the creek

where I failed at starting the tractor, afterwards,
that hadn't been started since our marriage.
Two sparrows gyring from ground, and we watched them,
their luminous wings as they banked the sky a miracle,

knowing the death that one day will become us
in a world so quiet we can almost hear the stars.


Sky Traffic

Below where the birds swirl all night
in a kind of traffic,
the one at the bottom slower,
perhaps hurt,
all of them gray and brown and white,
wings in the wind.

The road is mercurial beyond the trees,
ink-dark and wet in October,
and I can feel the season in its almost heroic gestures,
but false, where every hill
past here is sorrow,
a kind of earthbound regret.
The birds are losing every wind
lost from the night's returning,
the real traffic going by,
toward Melbroke,
in rain turning to snow,
to rain freezing.


An Explanation

(after Stanley Plumly)

Four, five, maybe six sparrows darting up near lake water,
and it's April, for a few more hours, in the town of my birth,
the Turneresque one-on-one of the clouds
three cities up in the Indiana sky,

and below, the coveralls of a dead farmer waving on a line,
white and more white, blowing in the breeze.

East of here, there is only east, cornfields, heap-dung, rain on rain,

an explanation,
like those flowers that bloom here later in the month,
a heart-shape that won't stay, a flare like
an immense light going toward explaining away God.


East of Here

If east of here is only east, you know it,
the weather so close it sings, the day
you choose that sends you reeling
the way any well-tamed wind reels
where more things should happen that don't.

Often you won't sleep for weeks,
each day a storm greater than any soul,
and the marvel the clouds make
helps you say back that year
when she was still here, and you were safe.

But you've done it, believing again,
forging a way to God by a mere photograph
of her eyes. That is what you need,
the snow giving the dark sky a distance,
endings where only things good begin.
You almost had hold of her once,
wanting that darkness.


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